Features Issue 138 Jun, 2013
Text by Krita Raut / Photo: ECS Media

The story of how a “little doctor” from Helambu made it big.

There are people who dream and then there are people who turn their dreams into reality. Tshering Lama belongs to a third category. Not only has he made his dream a reality, he is in fact making it possible for others to nurture a dream for a better future.

Every year 20 Nepali students get a chance to pursue higher studies in the UK through the Tshering Lama Northumbria University Scholarship. “They (university people) asked me what the criteria should be; I said they have to be Nepali,” recalls Lama about the scholarship existing between 2006 and 2013.

The scholarship came into existence after he was announced the Regional winner of the British Council’s SHINE Awards for international students. Also the national finalist, Lama received the award from former PM of the UK Tony Blair. “The award brought recognition and opened many doors, like the scholarship. It proved that a boy from a village can make a difference,” expresses Lama who also won the Voluntary Award 2004.
This exemplary journey began when he started working as a health worker at the age of 13 in Helambu. “My grandmom was my first patient, I would refer to this book called ‘Where there is no doctor’,” he shared. The book’s title sums the reality of his village. The boy -- who always wanted his education to benefit others strongly believed that “true education should translate into reality” -- started being referred to as the ‘Little doctor’ by villagers. “They would give me things like eggs, spinach or milk in exchange for my treatment. That’s why I am so tall, I was well-nourished early on,” he quips. His voluntary work at Kanti Children’s Hospital in Kathmandu was an eye opener and it gave a new direction to his dream of improving health-related issues in rural Nepal. “I learnt that the focus should be more on prevention and not cure, so I decided to study public health,” says Lama.

He received his BSC Honours Degree in Health Development Studies and a Masters degree in Public Health from Northumbria. He was the first ever recipient of the Northumbria University Lord Glenamara International Scholarship. A chance encounter with a British volunteer at a school introduced him to Telemedicine. The volunteer’s father Prof. Victor Patterson is an expert in Telemedicine. His Master’s thesis was based on Telemedicine while he did a PhD on the prospects of Telemedicine in Nepal. He has initiated the same at Dhulikhel Hospital for which health workers at Sindhupalanchowk, Kavre and Ramechapp are being trained. However, after much research he has understood that a lot has to be done before Telemedicine becomes a norm in the health sector of Nepal and thus “we are not stepping too fast”.

Meanwhile he is working as the Country Director of Childreach Nepal which he says is the right channel to implement his knowledge into action. From early childhood development to sports, health and nourishment, the NGO works for children in different areas. The focus for 2013, Lama said, is on the Early Childhood Development Center, My School, My Voice (Childreach International project), and School health program, Health Insurance scheme, teaching survival skills to senior students and working on the research they have done on child trafficking among others.

Lama has come a long way from being just a ‘little doctor’. I asked him how it feels in retrospect. “There is a sense of relief for the accomplishment but also responsibilities,” he replies and adds with confidence, “If you have a clear vision about your goal and if you are passionate about your work you will find people who will support you”.